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Classic Review: Black Sabbath - Headless Cross
Black Sabbath
Headless Cross

Label: IRS Metal
Year released: 1989
Duration: 40:28
Tracks: 8
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: August 2, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Headless Cross

Rated 4.66/5 (93.15%) (73 Votes)

In the annals of Black Sabbath's extensive discography, the Tony Martin era gets no respect from the BS purists. Either they only like the 'classic' Ozzy albums, or they prefer the band's most commercial period with Dio. But I think the band did some of their best work with under-appreciated vocal god Martin, and this, their fourteenth full-length album, was the best one they did with him.

This is not the Sabbath that grew out of the 60's and 70's, this is a thoroughly modern sound for an old band, and I suppose that's what some people didn't like. But the fact that this sounds different doesn't mean it doesn't rule. The opener is a gay-ass 'atmospheric' intro that is short enough to make you wonder why, and yet too long not to skip. But then the blaring riffs of the title track get going and any old-school metal fan is going to start to headbang. "Devil and Daughter" is a faster cut, but probably my least favorite one here. The album is generally divided evenly between faster, rockier 'old-Sabbath' songs like this one and the awesome riff-fest "Black Moon", with a heavy dose of longer, more sprawling and epic tunes. These are the real meat and milk of this album: the monumental "When Death Calls", followed by the unbeatable one-two punch of the album's best tracks – "Kill In The Spirit World" and "Call Of The Wild" – these two songs are just awesome, and between them they sport enough riffs, leads and vocal hooks for a whole album. "Nightwing" is a slow, doomy closer with a cool acoustic intro that swings right into a monster chorus. Great fuckin' shit man.

Tony Iommi sounds great here, turning in some very cool leads with juuuust the right touch of retro to his guitar tone. Cozy Powell (RIP) handles the drums expertly, and though this album lacks Geezer on the bass, the playing by unknown Laurence Cottle is actually pretty damned good. But the star of the show is undoubtedly vocalist Tony Martin, who sounds like a manlier Dio, with that same gritty tone without the elfin sound. He just wails, and he's written some killer lyrics and vocal hooks to go along with his awesome voice.

The package is minimal, and actually quite dull. Guess that's what you get from a 'Major Label'. Whatever. Why is it so-called big labels always produce the sorriest, most half-assed CD art? The only reason you want the booklet is the awesome lyrics. They don't always make sense. ("Your assassin has cursed every spectre" – what?) But they sound cool anyway.

I don't care if you don't like Black Sabbath – you will like this album. Because if you like good old-fashioned heavy metal with no gimmick except for killer songs, then you will like this album no matter what name is on it. And for all you old-Sabbath snobs, maybe you should clear the Ozzy-gunk out of your ears and listen to what his band was up to while he's been making an international ass of himself.

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